The Simpsons Folder : Production : Lisa’s Top 10 Episodes
1. Lisa’s Substitute
Lisa develoeps a crush on substitute teacher Mr Bergstrom which, unlike her other teachers, genuinely seems to understand her. Bergstrom was voiced by Dustin Hoffman.
“I though that was brilliant!” Smith gushes. “It was the first time that you saw that this little girl was truly exceptional, and Matt Groening has said it was the first time they realised this cartoon was something above and beyond what they’d excepted.”
What was it like working with Dustin Hoffman?
2. Lisa Versus Malibu Stacey
Lisa goes up against the blatant sexism of the Malibu Stacey doll (with phrases like ‘Let’s bake some cookies for the boys’, and ‘Thinking too much gives you wrinkles’) by creating her own: Lisa Lionheart. Kathleen Turner voiced Malibu Stacey’s eclusive creator.
“It’s certainly a subject that’s very close to my heart,” Smith says of the episode. “I think that women in Western culture are inuntaded with impossible physical images to try and live up to. I’m always proud of Lisa when stands up on principle and does that stuff, but I get a little worried when she gets too principled and doesn’t act enough like an eight year-old.”
3. Lisa the Iconolast
On the 200th anniversary of the founding of Springfield, Lisa discovers the legendary founder, one Jebediah Springfield, has a shady past. Donald Shutherland played the curator of the Springfield Historical Society, Hollis Hurlbut.
“I love that one – I thought it was very funny,” Smith comments. [Donald Shutherland] came to record and we had a special session and, er, y’know, he did this thing.
“I was a little intimidated actually,” she continues candidly. “I had done a film with him 100 years ago called Heaven Help Us so I had met him before, but I’d had a tiny part and he didn’t really remember me. Because he’s kind of tall and sombre I think, ‘I’d better behave or maybe he’ll be mad at me”‘ I think he takes his work so seriously – you know, we goof off so much and then you think, ‘Okay, better suck it up maybe.”
4. Moaning Lisa
No-one understands Lisa, who is persecuted for being different (and clever, and talented) until she meets ‘Bleeding Gums’ Murphy, a saxophonist like herself.
“Ahh, I love that, “Smith smiles. “Bleeding Gums became a favourite character for many people as well as me, and I thought there was so much chemistry – finally she found someone who really understood her instead of her father telling her not to practise the saxophone. It was important for her to have and ally in something she felt so passionate about.”
5. Lisa on Ice
Lisa is forced to take up ice-hockey in order to avoid being failed for gym, and provesas good at it as her brother. Meanwhile, Homer is torn in his layaltie between son and daughter.
“I love the episodes with sibling rivalry – I think they do the so well!” Lisa’s real-life voice says. “I think they’re magic. You think, ‘Oh yes I remember feeling that way.’
“I think that Nancy Cartwright who does the voice of Bart and I have been doing this for so long that we get the sibling rivalry when they put that script in fron of us,” she continues. “We completely sync into those characters even though she’s a woman playing a young boy.”
6. Lisa the Vegetarian
Lisa becomes a vegetarian and, when the going gets tough, receives encouragement from a certain ex-Beatle and his wife.
“Boy, did I want to come to England to record with them!” Smith laughs. “The executive producer came and said, ‘Oh no, Yeardley, you can’t come – we don’t have any money.'”
The McCartneys agreed to the appearance, but did lay down one condition.
“What I hear is that they said, ‘We’ll do the episode so long as you maintain the fact that Lisa stays a vegetarian – that next week she doesn’t go out and eat half a cow or something.'” She explains. “I thought that was pretty cool – I’m all for character memory because you feel like it feeds into the integrity of the whole show.”
And is the voice of Lisa Simpson a vegetarian?
“I was actually, but to tell you the truth I got too hungry!” She laughs. “After two and a half years it was like, ‘I’m starving to death!’ When I started to eat meat again it was like… [sound of lapsed vegetarian ripping into flesh] ‘This is excellent!'”
7. Lisa’s Rival
Lisa has little in life apart from her undoubted academic superiority over her family and classmates. However, even that is lost when a new girl starts. Winona Ryder played Allison Taylor, Lisa’s rival.
“Winona Ryder came and recorded with us – she was lovely and sweet and we had a wonderful time,” Smith recalls. “I actually really like that episode, and yet it broke my heart because finally they give Lisa all these things – she’s really bright, she plays the saxophone better than anybody, she’s this prodigy – and then, they present her with a creature that is younger and better at everything, and you think, ‘How much more can you take from this child?’
“But again, I love the stuff where they stick to ‘kids are kids’, and even though she has these gifts, she’s eight and she gets into that, ‘I’m gonna beat you, this is all I have’ childlike determination.”
8. I Love Lisa
Valentine’s Day comes to Springfield, and Lisa discovers to her chagrin that she is the centre of a certain Ralph Wiggum’s affections.
“I thought that was really sweet,” Smith says softly. “There was one time, many years ago when they had Lisa have a crush on a stable boy, but her reaction to it was too sexual for an eight year-old (at least all the eight year-olds I know!), so what I liked about ‘I Love Lisa’ was that true thing where a kid in your class gets a crush on you and you think, ‘Oh man! What am I going to do?’
“She was actually slightly more sophisticated about it than most eight year-olds, but again it didn’t get into anything sexual, so there was this dilemma of how do you get what you want without hurting somebody else’s feelings?” She concludes. “I thought it was quite cool and Ralph is a lovely, funny, completely clueless character who added a real element of naïvete that Lisa doesn’t have so much of because she’s so wise.”
9. Lisa the Greek
Lisa discovers a knack for predicting football results, and in the process forms a bond with her previously disinterested father.
“That was a great one – a heartbreaker as well,” Smith remembers. “Her lifelong struggle over these eight seasons – still as an eight year-old – is to find a bond with he father, and there’s nothing worse than finding out that someone likes you for what you do, not who you are.
“I think she felt like, ‘Okay, I’ll do this thing and then he’ll want to know just me’.” she reasons. “It’s not that Homer doesn’t love his daughter; he just can’t find the common ground. He doesn’t have the attention span. And they made up in the end because they always do, but it always seems to be a couple of stitches and then those stitches fall apart.”
10. The Summer of Four Foot Two
The Simpsons borrow the Flanders’ beachhouse for a holiday and Lisa meets a group of children who she tries to befriend. But Bart is having none of it…
“Lisa is at her best I think, when she is struggling with what all children seem to struggle with: being accepted by her peers,” Smith says. “We did a wonderful episode where she finally meets this group of kids and she does her best to fit in. Bart is outraged that Lisa should have a friend at all and goes out of his way to split them up. It’s a brilliant episode – lots of sibling rivalry.”